Is It Self-Defense or Assault?

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The dividing line between self-defense and assault can be difficult to pinpoint. People often claim they were acting in self-defense - but were they? In the end, it can be difficult to say without some serious evidence backing the self-defense legal defense up. In other words, a claim of self-defense is not an easy legal defense to prove, but the fact remains that self-defense is sometimes necessary – and it remains a valid legal defense.

What Constitutes Assault?

In order to distinguish between assault and self-defense, it is important to understand what the charge of assault means. For a charge of assault to hold, one of the following must apply:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing someone else (including a spouse) bodily harm

  • Intentionally or knowingly threatening someone else (including a spouse) with imminent bodily harm

  • Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with someone else that the offender knows or reasonably should know the other person will find provocative or otherwise offensive

Under this broad definition, assault can take many forms. Simply threatening another person with harm in a credible manner can lead to an assault charge – as can grabbing a coworker, for example, in a sexual or violent manner or touching him or her in a way that is unwanted.

What if You Are Defending Yourself?

When you were a child, you understood that whoever lashed out physically against a sibling or classmate first got in trouble for doing so – whether the other kid deserved it or not. The law takes a similar stance. The person who throws the first punch or who brandishes a weapon will generally be charged – regardless of how provocative or terrible the other person was acting. If the other person, however, attempts to attack you with his or her fists or anything else – or brandishes a weapon at you – you have the right to defend yourself. For example, if the other person attempts to strike you and you throw up your arm to protect yourself but hit your attacker in the process, that is self-defense. As you can imagine, things can escalate from here, and drawing a dividing line between self-defense and assault can be exceptionally complicated.

Proving Self-Defense

In the most general sense, proving self-defense typically comes down to proving both of the following:

  • That you feared being harmed, and the test for this is if other reasonable people in similar situations would experience the same fear you did

  • That the threat you faced was imminent, which means there was no opportunity for you to protect yourself in another way

An Experienced Killeen Criminal Attorney Is on Your Side

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a well-respected criminal attorney with a wealth of experience successfully guiding cases like yours toward optimal outcomes, and he is here for you, too. For more information about how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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